• Acupuncture During Pregnancy

    By Christina Livas L.Ac.

    As an acupuncturist working in the fertility field, I am frequently asked if Acupuncture is safe during pregnancy. I am here to answer that question! Acupuncture is a completely safe and effective treatment for minor to moderate pregnancy symptoms. It is important to know that there are many medications that are considered unsafe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. That is why many patients turn to acupuncture (as I did during my own pregnancy) to treat even common symptoms unrelated to pregnancy to avoid taking medication unless it was deemed necessary. 

    Here is a list of symptoms Acupuncture can treat during your pregnancy journey.

    First trimester:

    Second Trimester:

    • Lingering first trimester symptoms
    • Pain
    • Sinus congestion
    • Hypertension
    • Preeclampsia 
    • Emotional Imbalance

    Third Trimester:

    • GERD/acid reflux/heartburn
    • Neck pain
    • Back pain
    • Sciatica
    • Rib pain
    • Leg cramps
    • Headaches and migraines
    • Insomnia
    • General discomfort
    • Itching 
    • Sinus congestion
    • Anxiety
    • Preparing the body for labor

    Postnatal:

    • Discharge
    • After pains
    • Perineal pain
    • Incision pain
    • Breast discomfort
    • Fatigue
    • Insufficient Lactation
    • Mastitis
    • Baby blues/postnatal depression

    While acupuncture can treat a variety of symptoms during your pregnancy there are still areas of the body that should not be needled while you are pregnant. This makes it very important that you choose an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility and/or pregnancy. Pregnancy is an amazing and exciting time in your life and you should make sure your body feels amazing too!! 

    Book your appointment with Christina in Highland Park or Buffalo GroveAcupuncture support for fertility, pregnancy, postpartum care, and general wellness is available in Chicago seven days a week, too!  Book an Initial Acupuncture Consultation with the October BOO-GO Special and get an Acupuncture Follow-up for FREE ($95 value)!

    Specials are available with services from our partner CocoonCare AND Pulling Down the Moon!  Check it out today!

    References:

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31392990 – low back pain and pelvic pain
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30423471 – anxiety and depression pre/postnatal
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30261764 – treating nausea and vomiting
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31483927 – safety of acupuncture during pregnancy

  • Acupuncture Explained

    Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM 

    The value of your practitioner
    Why do I need to come in to the office?

    One of the beautiful aspects of acupuncture is that your body is seen and understood as the complete instrument that it is. Your acupuncture point system is endlessly evolving. If you have graduated out of weekly or twice weekly acupuncture sessions, or have fallen out of the habit of coming in to the office, this post if for you.  It is also for those who are at the end of their fertility focus, may be on a break, or are wondering if they can use acupuncture for different reasons. 

    What is important about coming to see your acupuncturist is that they will assess the current state of your health and choose point combinations that will tune your instrument, or all out repair it. It needs to be done in the office every now and then, even though we send you home more educated, with homework, or with goals accomplished.  

    There are ways to make this easier and less stressful. Pull out your calendar!  As you assess your healthcare plan for the next year, look at the entire year ahead. Break it down into quarters, seasons, and peak stress times. Book a sequence of appointments for at least 2 weeks before an event like a holiday, a change in season, or as the quarter winds down. Book 2 appointments the week before tax season or school starts.  It is great to touch base with your wellness team to be reminded of how to stay on track. This will help you be at your best.

    Women have the opportunity to use their menstrual cycle, also, for scheduling structure. The frequency of office visits depends on what is going on for you, and what your cycle or the year is like. Talk to your acupuncturist to find out what fits best for you. For some, it could be coming during your period, to help keeps things moving. For others, it could be better to come in before you ovulate.  Reach out and ask us how we can help recharge your wellness routine.  

    Come in and see us then have a great Fall!  Book and save in October with our BOO-GO special that includes a FREE follow-up session ($95 value)!

  • It’s Time for a Prana Party

    By Alece Demaray, RYT500 + CPYT

    I have a question and I want you to be honest (and not judge yourself for your answer)!  How do you feel at the end of the week? Do you feel exhilarated …exhausted…fulfilled…or like you could dive into a large pizza?  Forget about a week, what about in a day? Does the day leave you feeling happy and whole OR empty and broken (or somewhere in between)?

    Life has a pace to keep up with.  There are appointments to make, deadlines to meet and challenges to tackle.  The constant hustle can drain you of your vigor. The fertility journey can be especially depleting.  The stress can rob you of joy and the worry can overwhelm your sense of peace. Prolonged imbalance of your energy can lead to anxiety, depression, physical pain and even sickness.  Not ideal for anyone, especially those trying to conceive. 

    Unfortunately, it is not possible to completely eliminate stress from our lives.  That would be unnatural and out of balance. It is possible, however, to COUNTER the drain of energy OUT with replenishing energy IN.

    In demanding times, it’s easy to forget that you are in the driver’s seat of your life.  You control the speed and can pump the brakes as needed.  You have the personal power to enhance your vibration in the world and boost your PRANA.  Prana is a Sanskrit word that means your vital energy, a.k.a. your gas in the tank, the strength of your blood flow, the fullness of your breath, your will to thrive!  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, prana is the same concept as “chi” or “qi”.  

    Prana is ESPECIALLY important when on the path to conception.  Not only do you need enough energy to sustain yourself, but you also need enough energy to grow a human!  So how can you boost your prana?

    We gain prana by doing things that nourish us, both physically and spiritually.  For me, that means eating vegetables and lean proteins, to stabilize my blood sugar.  It means going to the lake to be by water, so I feel more balanced. It means taking a bath on a Thursday night with my favorite essential oil and meditating in the morning, before the activity of the day picks up.

    What boosts my prana is not necessarily what will enhance yours, as we are all unique individuals.  Here are some ideas that could help to nurture your vital essence. Which resonate with you? 

    • Being in nature
    • Eating well – lots of vitamin rich food
    • Moderate exercise that leaves you energized – NOT depleted
      • YOGA is WONDERFUL 😊
    • Deep Breathing
    • Journaling
    • A cup of tea with a good friend (grab a FREE cup of a caffeine-free blend for your journey while at our center!) 
    • A cup of tea by yourself 
    • Listening to music that soothes you
    • Taking a rest
    • Getting good sleep
    • Treat yourself to a massage
    • Meditating
    • ANYTHING THAT MAKES YOU FEEL MORE WHOLE, REFILLED AND REPLENISHED WITH YOU.

    You can call it Self Care, you can call it a Prana Party…  they are the same wonderful thing: Taking time to slow down and take care of YOU.  Build your energy reserves so you are capable, creative and authentically you – radiating out in the world, with a sense of balance and ease.

    If you are inspired by this concept of Prana and harnessing it to support your fertility journey, inquire about the next Yoga for Fertility series at Pulling Down The Moon!

    • Try a FREE Yoga for Fertility class in Chicago or Highland Park on Monday, October 21st at 7pm!
    • Interested in joining the series?  New sessions are starting: Thursday, October 10th at 6pm for Online Yoga for Fertility; in Chicago on Saturday, October 12th at 12:15pm and Wednesday, October 30th at 7pm (with me)!  For Highland Park, the new session will start on Monday, October 28th at 7pm!

     

  • Finding Calm

    by Christine Davis, LAc MSOM

    With each passing year, things seem to get busier. More appointments, more work requirements, more life events, more things to do. Then there’s the well meaning family members and friends: why aren’t you pregnant yet? My friend tried This Thing and it worked for her, so you you should try it, too! Then there’s social media and the internet: EVERYONE seems to be happier and more successful than you – here’s what you SHOULD be doing to do to be happy ALL THE TIME. It’s all a never ending stream of NOISE. Where does it stop? How can you simmer down and quiet the stream of mental debris that constantly stimulates worry, fear, anxiety, and frustration?

    Here are my suggestions. They aren’t a complete list, but these are the important ones. It may take time to incorporate them all: 

    1. Say it with me: “No.” “I’m sorry, I’m not available.” It’s ok to put yourself first and say “no” when what is being asked of you will compromise your wellness. Clear a path for your ability to think clearly, breathe, and do the things you need to do to feel balanced. Much like Marie Kondo’s method for clearing physical clutter, you need to decide what’s important in your life mentally and emotionally. Say YES to the things that create the life you want (even though they may be difficult, too, sometimes) and NO to the things that are holding you back from that life.
    2. Disconnect. Social media has been fun over the past couple of decades, right? There are some good and some (really) bad parts, but study after study emerges showing the negative impact that it can have on your mental and emotional state. If you are having trouble completely disconnecting – especially if work or other interests require you to connect with SM – limit your interactions with these apps/websites. Give yourself a specific time frame in which you allow yourself to use them in a positive, uplifting manner.
    3. Get help. There is no shame in reaching out to a professional if you need help with mental wellness. This could be a mental health professional, a religious guide, etc. Someone who you trust, who is impartial, who has training in helping to guide you is ideal. This doesn’t mean you are signing up forever – sometimes a few sessions can really help to clarify and ground you. I feel like the best therapists are the ones who hold a “mirror” up, so to speak, so that you can see things as they are, then help you to appreciate the beauty that you see.
    4. Center yourself. This could be with meditation, prayer, yoga, journaling, long walks by the lake – whatever helps you to focus on one, two, or ten things–instead of the thousands of thoughts that are constantly flooding in otherwise. I like to think of Georgia O’Keefe’s “Sky Above Clouds” painting – the thoughts are just clouds floating past. Try not to hang on to them and instead just observe them and let them float past. There are some amazing smartphone apps: FertiCalm and FertiStrong, Insight Timer, MindfulIVF, Headspace, etc. that have tons of guided meditations for everything from general anxiety to trouble sleeping to going through an IVF cycle.
    5. Find gratitude. Keeping a Gratitude Journal helps with this. Write just a line or two each day about something you are grateful for. It could be the delicious muffin you had for breakfast, the painless phlebotomist experience, your favorite song coming on the radio, the friend who went out of her way to give you the support you needed. Many studies have shown that focusing on the positive aspects of life actively literally rewires the brain to feel happier and more positive.
    6. Try Acupuncture. A modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture is a therapy for the mind, body, and spirit. With regular (once or twice per week, usually) treatment, you will see many aspects of your physical, mental, and emotional self come into balance. Acupuncture is known to be helpful for everything from pain to allergies to digestive stuff to fertility, but it can also be helpful for balancing the mental state and emotions.

    Firstly, an acupuncture visit is usually very relaxing! Most who haven’t tried it don’t believe me when I say that, but when else do you take 30 min to just lie still, no phone, not going to sleep (although it’s ok if you do!), not talking or listening (except to quiet music)? This is a deeply restorative time to be quiet, soft, grounded.

    Acupuncture has mounting  scientific evidence showing that regular treatment can help with reducing anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM, there is a strong connection between the physical state and the emotional state. By creating a state of harmony throughout the physical body, balanced mental/emotional wellness is the natural outcome. 

    In TCM, fertility is associated with the element of Water. When water is too abundant or too scarce, the earth and all forms of life suffer, including our own bodies. The element of Water shows its emotional imbalance in the form of Fear/Anxiety. When we are in a constant state of stress (life, work, family, infertility, etc), we put ourselves into a constant state of “fight or flight.” This creates a situation in which our bodies focus only on staying alive for the moment rather than long cycles like those required for fertility. By using acupuncture, we are able to break that constant loop of stress, find grounding, and reconnect with our natural cycles which can lead to improved fertility.

    Choosing to find serenity in this life takes effort. Just think about when someone says, “Calm down!” or “Relax!” Has anyone ever calmed down or relaxed just by hearing that? I don’t think so. By regularly making the choice to build the space for quiet, for reflection, for balance, you are creating a foundation for the life you are searching for. 

    Learn more during our upcoming webinar “Acupuncture for a Medicated Cycle” on Tuesday, September 17th at 6pm! Click here to register to view it live or watch the replay at your convenience!

    Ready to get started? Book your appointment now and save with the You Pick Two special this month!

  • Late Summer

    by Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director LAc MSOM

    According to Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory, the world is composed of 5 elements: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Because the ancient authors wanted everything to be neat and tidy with the theory, they divided everything up that way – flavors, colors, senses, and even the seasons. So, while in Western culture, we only embrace 4 seasons, TCM has added a 5th season: Late Summer, usually a shorter time between August to early September. It’s the time when its just plain hot and extra dry/humid depending on your location. The plants have peaked and are beginning to ripen their fruits. The ads for back-to-school are in full swing and no one even cares about their swimsuit body anymore. Nature is experiencing one last burst of transformation before we settle into the retreat and contraction of Fall and Winter.

    In TCM, Late Summer is the domain of the element of Earth. Its color is yellow, its flavor is sweet, its internal organs are the Spleen and Stomach, the organs of digestion, which transform the food we take in into our flesh and blood. The Spleen and the Stomach are associated with nurturing, grounding energy. 

    The Earth element’s direction is the Center. In Chinese, the country of China is called Zhong Guo中国 , or “Central Country,” meaning that to them, they are the center of the world. In fact, the name of the emperor who is credited as being the father of Traditional Chinese Medical theory, Huang Di 黄帝 (2711-2598 BCE), can be translated as Yellow Emperor, thus demonstrating his connection to central, Earth energy. 

    Late Summer is a time when people who have imbalances in their metabolism & digestion often experience increased symptoms: allergies, nausea, loose stools, low energy, weight gain, blood sugar instability, and other digestive and metabolic issues. 

    Here are a few ways you can help yourself stay in balance during the Late Summer season:

    1. Eat in moderation, especially when it comes to sweets. I find that writing down what you eat – whether in a simple journal style or with an app like Lose It or Weight Watchers – helps to keep you accountable for everything that goes through your lips.
    2. Avoid sweets, excessive simple carbohydrates (breads, pastas, baked goods, etc), excessive dairy, and greasy/fried foods. All of these are enemies of the Spleen (digestive function) and can “gum up the works” so to speak, especially at this time of year. Cold foods are also very tempting on a hot day, but can also slow digestion. Try keeping cold drinks separate from meals to aid in proper digestion.
    3. Reduce worries! Ok, that sounds much easier than it actually is sometimes, but the emotional manifestation of an imbalanced Spleen is WORRY. So, find the things that really bring you peace – it could be meditation, yoga, acupuncture, but it could also be hanging out with friends/family, taking a walk, sitting by the lake, listening to your favorite tunes. Do what works for YOU to find your center, your happy place to release (even if can only be temporarily) worry.
    4. Nurture yourself! Along the same line, take the time to give yourself your basic needs: sleep, good nutrition, exercise, relaxation. If you don’t have those things consistently, it is difficult for your body to remain in balance. 

    Happy Late Summer! Visit Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director at Pulling Down the Moon, in Highland Park on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays!  New hours available in Chicago on Mondays and Thursdays starting on Thursday, September 5th! Try something NEW and save with one of our monthly specials today!

  • Nutrition, Hormones, and Microbiome Diversity

    By Kelly Lyons, L.Ac, MSOM

    I often get the question, “Why do I need a probiotic?” It is easy to take a probiotic and start to develop valuable high quality and diverse forms of gut bacteria.  All too often, that diversity in bacteria is lacking. Probiotics can help adjust that.

    Study after study shows correlations between gut health and vital system health throughout the body. Just recently, I read an article in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism that illuminates a relationship between PCOS and gut bacteria. In “Gut Microbial Diversity in Women With PCOS Correlates With Hyperandrogenism” the study revealed links between PCOS and a reduction in microbiome diversity. It also showed a possible correlation between elevated testosterone in women and decreased microbiome diversity. In a follow-up study, one of the same researchers, Varykina Thackray, Ph.D., stated, “Our new results suggest that altering the gut microbiome via prebiotic or probiotic therapies may be a potential treatment option for PCOS.” (Links to studies at end of blog.)

    What does the gut have to do with hormone balance? Glad you asked. Hormones are metabolized in stages as they trek through the body.  They travel to the liver, and then they go to the gut, where hopefully and ultimately, they are eliminated out of your system. At various points along the way, hormones can get tripped up in their metabolic process.  If hormones get to the gut, and there is an unhealthy microbiome balance, they can easily get stuck there. This is one way that hormones accumulate and mess with digestion, disrupt biofeedback signaling, and slow down healthy hormone production.

    I think about what probiotics have to do with Chinese Medicine a lot. Traditional diets across cultures use daily fermented foods to assist digestion. Ancient Chinese texts describe the digestive system as the earth element and the center.  “The Earth permits sowing, growing, and reaping.” This is a very important passage from the Shang Shu, translated by our beloved late teacher Giovanni Maciocia. You hear your acupuncturist talk often about “reducing damp” and “reducing sugary foods that cause damp accumulation.” As the stomach and spleen are the origin of qi and blood, this makes sense.

    If you are trying to get a certain amount of highly nourished blood moving, without hesitation, to the uterus, you need the digestive system to be on it. You need the Earth element. You need the Spleen and Stomach channels to not be overworked and bogged down.

    If you are trying to metabolize hormones, whether in a natural cycle,  a medicated cycle, postpartum, menarche, perimenopause, or menopause, you need your digestive tract working optimally.

    Unfortunately, most of us were not raised to have a diverse palate that intuitively steers us to foods, herbs, and spices that are bitter, sour, pungent, salty, AND sweet. We mostly enjoyed sweet and salty diets. This creates an environment that appeals to certain microorganisms in the gut and discourages microbiome diversity. Did you know that there are taste receptors in the lower GI tract? So, we need to balance the flavors we eat, if we want our bodies to outmaneuver the impact of our less than healthy choices.  

    What does a sour food do for us? Technically, it increases saliva, digestive enzyme secretion, stimulates metabolism, and encourages proper liver function. (By the way, the sour flavor falls into a TCM category with the liver and spring, so when you feel like heavy wintery foods are not working for you anymore, try adding sour foods into your menu with greens to aid in the digestive transition). Apple cider vinegar? Yes, add a splash to your lemon water in the morning, with your probiotic. It will help prep your system to start digesting. Add it to your greens, too, at lunch!

    What about the taste of bitter? Bitters increase saliva and digestive enzyme production. They enhance the movement of blood in the digestive system after meals. If you have been in our offices, you know HOW IMPORTANT it is to keep blood moving in the abdominal cavity. Bitters encourage more complete absorption of nutrients. This can protect the body from having to deal with stray food particles leaving the intestines through the bloodstream, otherwise known as Leaky Gut Syndrome. Guess what that does? It reduces damp and clears heat. Where there is inflammation, there is fluid accumulation, and vice versa. Next time you go to buy your chocolate bar, go as dark as you can and think about how beneficial that bitter is!

    Pungent flavors are amazing. These are the wildcard friends that open you up and make you laugh your eyes out! They literally open up the orifices, again, when the tendency is to contract. These are things like onion, garlic, ginger, scallions, horseradish, mustard, mint. All of these plants are known across cultures as medicine.  Mint needs no introduction to my clients. It is cooling, vents pathogens, soothes the liver, motivates blood flow, and is uplifting. It is part of an essential formula in Chinese Medicine called Xiao Yao San, or Free and Easy Wanderer. Pungent flavors are medicine. Use them in your meals. A little goes a very long way.

    Empty nutrition is robbing us of systemic health. Non-functional food is fueling the growth of harmful bacteria that degrades gut health, leaves cells weakened, and entire body systems undernourished and in distress. And there is a lot that you can do. If you are on a mission to balance hormones, regulate a cycle, reduce bloating and promote healthy metabolism of hormones from a medicated cycle, or reduce anxiety, and you haven’t aimed your attention at your gut, start now! Take a breath, get in warrior pose, and start helping your gut be as strong as it can be. Come in and talk to us. Let us help you through it.

    Exciting stories often start in very tiny packages.  Microorganisms are an example of this. Our entire body is understood as an ecosystem in Chinese Medicine. I remember reading an article about salmon shortages affecting old growth trees. It said that more than 75% of the nitrogen the trees needed to thrive was provided by the remains of salmon dragged into the forest by animals.  It reminded me of the human digestive system, and how reliant it is on tiny, often understudied components.

    If you are not taking a probiotic, or eating fermented foods daily, consider it. If you are bloated, constipated, or experiencing brain fog and signs of hormone imbalance, come in and discuss what to do with your practitioner.  Probiotics, prebiotics, functional and balancing foods, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, exercise, working with a nutritionist, and supplements can help create a healthy structure for you to take your next step forward.

    Try acupuncture, nutrition, massage, and yoga during these summer months with passport savings! Pick-up a probiotic on your visit, too!

    Research Links:

    Pawelczyk L, Duleba AJ, Kelley ST, Thackray VG. 2018. Gut Microbial Diversity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome correlates with hyperandrogenism. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 103:1502-1511. doi: 10.1210/jc.2017-02153 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6276580/

    The Endocrine Society. “Improved PCOS symptoms correlate with gut bacterial composition.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2019. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/03/190323145201.htm

     

  • The 4 Pillars of Health: How to Be & Stay Healthy

    By Christine Davis, Acupuncture Director

    Everyone has advice for you: Do this, do more of this, don’t do that, do less of that. This is the only thing that works. Everyone is different, so nothing works for everyone. Eat more of this. Eat less of that. Exercise more. Exercise less. Weigh more. Weigh less.

    I think that, particularly because of the internet, you can find information to support every theory out there on literally everything. It’s hard to know what to trust, what is actually true. While it can take some time to find the things that work for us to stay healthy or find balance, I do think there are a few things that we can universally take as truth.

    Here’s what I’ve found:

    • Slow Down. I started with this one because it helps to make all the rest possible. We hear this a lot, right? Take time for yourself, relax, find ways to unwind. But how do YOU do that? I think it’s necessary to take some time every single day to be quiet and listen to what your body, your mind, and your heart are telling you. Some days, you might have more time, some days, it’s only 2 minutes. But this has to be a priority like any other. When you take time to be still, whether in meditation, taking a walk, listening to quiet music, doing yoga, or even in an acupuncture session, this is time to hear yourself: your thoughts, how your body feels, where your mind is. What works for one person may not work for another. Remember there’s a reason that we call meditation a “practice.” It’s a process, not a destination. It recharges you, helps you find yourself and your goals, and strengthens your ability to cope with the challenges that life throws your way.

     

    • Eat Well. There are so many theories out there about how to eat, what to eat, where to eat. It can all get very confusing! But I think we all know what things don’t feel right – whether it’s refined sugars/carbs, greasy/fried foods, too much salt, portions that are too large, etc, so staying clear of those as much as possible is critical. The more I go through life and doing the work I do, the more I realize just how important these things are. A study that came out last month showed that unhealthy diets are responsible for 1 in 5 deaths worldwide. Even if our diets are only “kind of” unhealthy, those foods could be contributing at the very least to inflammation, endocrine dysfunction, and thereby problems with fertility. If you are feeling lost in the woods about where to start, make an appointment for Nutritional Counseling with one of our amazing Dietitians.

     

    • Sleep. Oh this is a hard one. We all think we can get away with sleep deficiency, but it always catches up to us in the end! The key is to try to stay consistent, even if you can’t be perfect every night. Aim for 7-8 hours, as close as possible to the same time to bed every night and wake up every morning. Of course, you will have special events, travel, and other things that try to throw a wrench in the works, but the more you condition yourself to stay consistent, the more your body will be prepared to sleep well when it’s time. Other things to try:
      1. Stop drinking anything caffeinated after 10am if you plan to go to bed by 10pm. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 16(!!!) hours, so plan accordingly.
      2. Try a simple chamomile tea about 30-45 min before bedtime – steep in 4oz or less of water so you won’t have to get up to use the restroom during the night.
      3. Stay away from devices 45-60 min before bed. It’s tempting to try to catch up on emails, surf Instagram or space out to some Netflix, but trust me on this, sleep is way more important!
      4. Clear clutter from your house in general, but definitely from around your sleeping area. There should be nothing that reminds you of stressful situations or work. Keep your sleeping area as simple and comfortable as possible to invite relaxation and rest.
      5. If you are still struggling to fall and stay asleep, try acupuncture to help regulate your diurnal cycle.

     

    • Exercise. This is another one that gets pretty complicated, but the bottom line is that you need to move your body on the regular. Medicated IVF cycles notwithstanding (when walking and gentle yoga are safe, as well as, recommended), getting your heart rate up and doing some resistance (free weights, muscular isolation, etc) exercise are necessary for us as humans. Our driving, sitting lifestyle has caused us to not have to do these things for basic needs, so we have to go out of our way to find them. If you love going to the gym, then do it! If you hate going to the gym, then find what works for you – yoga, martial arts, ballroom dancing… If you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stay with it. I had a personal trainer as a patient one time. I remember asking him what the best kind of exercise was. Do you know what he said? He said, “The best kind? That’s the one that you DO.” 100% accurate. If you are someone who has strayed away from exercise or maybe never had a regular practice, it’s time to make friends with the feeling of moving your body to make it strong and healthy. Find what works for YOU.
      • >I want to make one side note here to say that you may be someone who exercises TOO much which can also have adverse effects on your body. It can be difficult to let go of an ideal of weight, shape, or status. If you are dealing with a BMI that is below optimum, consider discussing what’s going on with your MD, Dietitian, and acupuncturist.

    That’s it. That’s all I know. None of this is new. But this stuff does work – tried and true. Some of it takes real willpower, but setting the wheels in motion now can help you find your healthiest self for life.

    Try Acupuncture for only $75 in May!  Learn more about holistic health options for the journey for you and your partner at the Shine Together In Person Meet-up with Pulling Down the Moon’s very own Christine Davis presenting on Tuesday, June 11th at 6:00-7:30pm at our Chicago office. Register to save your spot today!

  • Guest Blog: It was my team who knocked me up!

    by Michele Weiss, LMFT

    Realistically, I imagine that there were many factors that lead to where I am now 30 weeks pregnant. While I endured over 100 shots in my abdomen and butt, 4 frozen embryo transfers, and countless failures and disappointments, I believe it was something more than the medication and the needles that got me to a healthy pregnancy- or at least kept me going.

    I want to share my story because after hearing the stories of many infertility warriors over the years in my private practice, I feel that we need to be open and honest about the real deal. I want to share my story not just so people who have no understanding (or misunderstanding) of infertility’s devastating reach can get a glimpse into our world, but so that those of us in this community of warriors can feel less alone, less damaged and less ashamed.

    My husband and I are carriers of a Jewish genetic disorder that lead us to terminate a pregnancy. This is a choice that, I know, evokes intense feelings and convictions in other people. As a woman who longed for, prayed for, and tried mightily for a healthy baby, the choice just felt like a heart string being ripped from my chest. We decided to pursue PGD and IVF after this loss as our route to building a family. However, trying for a child at 38 years old via PGD and IVF proved to be longer and more complicated than we expected.

    What helped me through it? There were the practical things like having a doctor and an acupuncturist whom I trusted implicitly and knew were 100% in the trenches with me (Thank you again and again Dr. Eve Feinberg at Northwestern and Kelly Lyons at Pulling Down the Moon). Acupuncture at PDtM was the only place I truly felt I could deeply and fully relax. In the midst of doctor appointments, my medication regimen, diet, meditation, etc., acupuncture helped me slow down and find my center. For me, the holistic approach to treatment helped me feel like I was doing everything within my power to get to a healthy baby.

    There were 3 touchstones that kept me going

    1. Stay away from Should’s

    2. Small Joys

    3. Hope

    It was a pretty simple formula, but enormously difficult to implement in the face of failure after failure.

    Stay away from Should’s. I decided to keep going until my doctor kicked me out of the clinic. It can feel like insanity to continue treatment in the face of unending loss and trauma. I reminded myself that I still had options if I could just expand the vision of how my journey to baby “should” go. These are not the idyllic narratives recorded in baby books. They are our valid, messy stories of bravery and passion, nonetheless.

    Small Joys. I decided that I would not let infertility rob me of all moments of joy that still existed- even when those moments of joy were teeny, tiny. I continued going to SoulCycle in between cycles because I felt happy on that bike. I cuddled in my dog’s fur. I went out with my girlfriends for water and wine (guess who drank what?). I spent way too much money on delicious teas. I went to see my favorite bands in concert, my needles in tow, and shot myself up with medication in First Aid bathroom stalls. I knew I needed to create joy where I could and to stay connected to the parts of my life that made me feel like “me” while living in the crazy world of infertility.

    Hope. I am deeply Jewish in my beliefs and spiritual practices. To my own surprise, during my infertility struggles I found hope in an Evangelical preacher. I would listen daily to “my Christian Rabbi”, as I affectionately referred to him. And minus the Jesus part which did not fit into my Jewish value system, this preacher’s message helped me tap into hope in the face of hopelessness and strength in the face of vulnerability. I think that God understands that when we are in the eye of the storm, we need to be a little radical.

    Then, there was the woman who checked me in for my daily blood work and ultrasound at the infertility clinic. I think she could tell that I was particularly beaten down one morning. After the standard registration procedure, she slipped me a small blue post-it note that read, “Thanks for always coming in with a warm smile. You make my day and I pray for your family to increase with a new baby. TRUST”. Her kindness touched me and reminded me to always cling to hope. I still carry her note with me in my wallet so that I can get a dose of hope if I ever need it.

    Even though I am a therapist who specializes in infertility and perinatal challenges, I do not really believe in advice when it comes to these matters. I have heard enough stories to know that each one of us has our own very unique heartache and very personal struggle. All I can share is what helped me. I was fierce and radical as a means to keep going. I expanded my vision of family-building when it wasn’t going the way I thought it would or should. I sought hope in trusted professionals and strangers, alike (even in unexpected places). As I sit here with my 7 month bump, I feel grateful that mine was the messy, painful, beautiful story that it turned out to be. And I will soon be proud and humbled to write that story in my daughter’s baby book.

     

    Michele Weiss LMFT
    
    3166 N. Lincoln Avenue, Suite 202 Chicago, IL 60657
    
    312-213-4690
    
    mweisstherapy@gmail.com
    
    Monday, Wednesday and Friday appointments available
    
    www.mweisstherapy.com

  • The Stress Response, Gut, and Fertility: Why You NEED to Read This!

    by Amie Shimmel Handa, D.C., Dipl. Ac., L.Ac

    People talk about stress all the time, and we all know that it is bad for us, but most of us don’t realize the long term consequences of chronic stress. It can impact our fertility, our nervous and immune system and even our gut. But what does that really mean to us?!

    I am going to break down what happens during a stress response and hopefully the next time you start to feel stressed you can take some action before the stress starts to control you,When you experience any kind of stress, physical, emotional , or mental, your body processes it the same- through the adrenal glands. When you encounter a perceived threat, (could be a work deadline, something going wrong with your body or life, or even something your body ate that was detrimental, your hypothalamus, a tiny region at your brain’s base, sets off an alarm system in your body. Through a combination of nerve and hormonal signals, this system prompts your adrenal glands, located atop your kidneys, to release a surge of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol.

    Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system (fertility) and growth processes. Did you know that 70 % of your immune system is in your gut so when cortisol affects the gut it’s also impacting the immune system? Cortisol, long term is highly inflammatory. When inflammation is chronic and it’s been around for a while, it can even trigger an autoimmune disease. As a result of this chronic stress your body continuously cycles through periods of high inflammation, which can damage the gut lining and make vulnerable to pathogens like bacteria, yeast, and parasites and a suppressed immune system.

    When the digestive system is compromised and harmful bacteria or yeast multiply and grows, the neurotransmitter “Serotonin “production is lowered and it is your “feel good, well being” hormones so your mood and happiness is reduced from this stress response. We know in holistic medicine the connection between cortisol (stress) and fertility. “We know now that stress hormones such as cortisol disrupt signaling between the brain and the ovaries, which can trip up ovulation,” says Sarah Berga, MD, an infertility specialist and vice chair of women’s health at Wake Forest Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C.

    The good news is you don’t have to live with chronic stress. There are numerous actions you can start today to reduce your stress. One of the best ways is through regular acupuncture treatments. Each time you receive acupuncture, especially ear acupuncture, you are stimulating the parasympathetic system the “rest and relaxation” system. Other great action steps are massage, yoga and meditation. My best piece of advice for stress is being kind to yourself and knows you are doing a great job!

    Try an Initial Acupuncture Consultation in April and get a follow-up session for FREE ($95 value)! Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 or book online today with the promo code BOGO19!

     

  • Can Acupuncture Help Treat My Endometriosis?

    Endometriosis is a condition in which the endometrial tissue that normally makes up the uterine lining, is displaced and found outside the uterus. This can present with an array of symptoms which includes painful periods, ovarian cysts, heavy periods, spotting before the period, and/or even infertility. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be very effective in treating it.
    According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) endometriosis is a condition that is termed as “blood stagnation”, and your acupuncture practitioner will determine the cause of it after your initial consultation. It can arise from the body’s inability to properly absorb the old stuck blood that is lingering in body. There are a myriad of acupuncture points and herbs which help break up this stagnant blood as well as strengthen the body so that it can deal effectively with the problem. The general recommendation is to come in for weekly acupuncture for at least 3 menstrual cycles. Herbs help accent the acupuncture’s therapeutic effect and treat on another level. The most notable changes that are observed, is a reduction or elimination of painful periods, regulate cycles so that there is no spotting before the onset of the period, shrink ovarian cysts, reduce the excessive flow of blood during the period, and helps increase the odds of pregnancy in those trying to conceive.
    In addition to acupuncture and herbs, it is highly recommended that the patient seek a nutrition consultation with us. In TCM we advise patients with endometriosis to have an anti-inflammatory diet, which means avoiding foods that are spicy, deep-fried, dairy, ice-cold foods/drinks, beef, grapefruits, raw foods, and do not over-eat. Include foods like dark leafy greens, chicken, pork, mint or jasmine tea, beets, seaweed, zucchini, asparagus, berries, apples, eat until you feel 80% full, to name a few helpful tips. Please feel free to email me with any questions in regards to acupuncture and the treatment of endometriosis at anna@pullingdownthemoon.com. I am available Tuesdays and Fridays at the Chicago location, but our office is open everyday of the week in the city for acupuncture appointments.  We have Acupuncture, Massage, Nutrition, Yoga available in Chicago, Highland Park, and Buffalo Grove.  Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004 today!
    Anna Pyne LAc, MSOM, FABORM